Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

To Climb or Not to Climb: The Probing of Self-Imposed Barriers That Delay or Deny Career Aspirations to Be an Administrator in a Public School System

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

To Climb or Not to Climb: The Probing of Self-Imposed Barriers That Delay or Deny Career Aspirations to Be an Administrator in a Public School System

Article excerpt

Introduction

According to the YWCA (2007) Women's Leadership Initiative, "A career ladder can be climbed in heels." This study examined one aspect of climbing that career ladder: self-imposed barriers of the journey to rise to an administrative position in public school systems. Barriers, glass ceilings, and broken ladders are all terms associated with obstacles women have encountered while trying to attain top management positions, and have been researched and studied extensively over the last thirty years. In the early 1990s, aspiring women viewed the barriers to the superintendency as external blockage. Derrington and Sharratt (2009a) reported on a study conducted in 1993 surveying women in Washington State who aspired to hold or already held a superintendent position. These researchers further reported that the women in their study perceived the barriers as "institutionalized and rooted in societal practices, such as gender-role stereotyping and sex discrimination" (Derrington and Sharratt, 2009a). Fourteen years later (2007), administering the same survey, Derrington and Sharratt found women still encountered barriers to attaining the superintendency but now the top barrier was reported as self-imposed. The respondents in this 2007 study defined self-imposed barriers as "the failure to attain the superintendency or the decision to avoid it because of family responsibilities" (Derrington and Sharratt, 2009b). As Derrington and Sharratt point out, "recognizing a barrier ... is the first step toward overcoming it" (2009a). To climb or not to climb seems to be the question women are now addressing. Aspiring women are recognizing that they have a choice when to climb the career ladder and "the climb" depends on how much and how fast they want to advance. Hence, are there glass ceilings and broken ladders, or have women moved to winding roads with more control over their choices, and/or inviting pauses on the climb up the ladder?

Background

In 1992, women held 87% of teaching positions in elementary schools (K-5) and 55% in secondary schools (6-12) (U. S. Equal Opportunity Commission of Elementary and Secondary Staff Information 1995). In the 1993-94 school year 40% of women in education held administration positions, with 34.5% holding positions as principals of an elementary or secondary school. Although the teaching profession is predominately female, and administrators, superintendents, assistant superintendents, principals, and assistant principals, are usually selected from within the teaching staff, males have held the majority of administrative positions (Curphey 2003). Mertz (2006) reported a male dominance pattern in administrative positions, particularly at the secondary school level. However, another recent study (2006) conducted by Roser, Brown, and Kelsey (2009) reported the opposite to be true in the state of Texas. They reported a higher number of female principals in Texas (Roser, Brown, and Kelsey, 2009). The Texas Education Agency (TEA) verifies that women have been the dominant gender in school administration in the state of Texas since 1998 (ASK TEA 2010). Gotwalt and Towns (1986) reported that women held 55% of elementary administrative positions, 12% of the junior high schools, and only 6% of highs schools during the 1930's. Roser, Brown, and Kelsey (2009) supported these findings by indicating women in Texas held 73.5% of the elementary administrative positions, 41.3% of junior high positions, and 29.8% of high school positions. Roser and colleagues' study demonstrates that women are increasing in numbers in administrative positions and are the more prevalent gender in the elementary administrative positions. According to the Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Elizabeth Burnmaster, "Getting more women to enter administration, especially considering becoming high school principals is a critical issue ... a high school Principalship is considered a key steppingstone to becoming a superintendent" (interviewed by Anne Davis, reporter for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2003). …

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